18 April 2008

TaraWatch Meeting at Trinity College, Dublin

To commemorate World Heritage Day, the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Trinity College Dublin has hosted a special gathering of TaraWatch this afternoon.
The special meeting was attended by a large number of individuals who are - in one way or another - concerned with the destruction of the Hill of Tara, the
ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland in Co. Meath (above), which is threatened by the building of the M 3 motorway.

Sarah Alyn Stacey, Senior Lecturer in the TCD French Department, opened the meeting and welcomed everyone to Trinity College. After her introductory words, Vincent Salafia (right), who is (and has been for some time) the most active campaigner against the systematic destruction of Irish heritage sites by our ignorant and incompetent government, gave an overview of the current situation around the Hill of Tara.

He pointed out that there are numerous archaeological sites that make up the whole complex that is Tara, and not just the actual hill itself. The whole landscape is actually a system of ancient monuments and sites which made up in Celtic times the court of the Ard Rí na hÉireann (High King of Ireland) and the capital of ancient Ireland.
All this is under imminent threat of destruction from the M 3 motorway which is currently being constructed through the Skryne Valley and across the entire Tara site. Despite several legal cases, most of which were initiated by Vincent Salafia, and an ongoing protest by environmental campaigners who have established a permanent watch camp at the Hill of Tara, the government and its National Road Authority (NRA) seem to be determined to continue with the M 3 project, which will destroy one of the most important historical sites of Ireland forever.

A senior legal expert from the Dublin Law Library (the home of Ireland's Senior Counsels, the most eminent barristers of the country) then explained the complex legal situation, which - unfortunately - leaves not much hope for TaraWatch and not much room for further legal action against the Irish government.
Questioned if there was any chance to prosecute the former Minister for the Environment Dick Roche, TD (left), who signed executive orders for the building of the M 3 through the Skryne Valley literally minutes before handing the Department over to the next minister, for destruction of national heritage, the Senior Counsel said that there was not really a legal process one could follow. So, as sad as it may be, it looks as if the Irish government and the NRA are getting away with public vandalism of the worst kind.

One of the environmental campaigners, who has recently staged a widely reported three-day protest in an underground tunnel, was also present at TCD and gave a detailed report of the current developments at the site. Despite a written agreement with the NRA, which followed her protest and was initially hailed as a success, the NRA appears not to honour its part of the bargain.
Only days after the agreement 100 Gardai and a group of masked private security guards (who are employed by the NRA) turned up and searched the peaceful camp "for weapons". Armed with slash hooks and catapults, they behaved very aggressively and rude, but despite a thorough search of the whole camp there were no weapons found at all. This was really no surprise to anyone, including the Gardai, but it shows how the government uses state forces and taxpayers' money to harass a group of peaceful campaigners, whose only concern is the preservation of our national heritage.

After a very constructive discussion of various options, the meeting at Trinity College voted on a resolution to appeal directly to UNESCO, asking to give the Hill of Tara the UN status of a World Heritage Site. Such a designation is in fact long overdue, and it appears that our government has not pursued this option forceful enough for quite some time. As things stand, we might end up with a World Heritage Site that is damaged and desecrated by a motorway, but at least it would mean that we get international recognition for the Hill of Tara.

The Emerald Islander

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